Challenging the Counter Offer

How to spot if your star candidate is going to get a big counter offer and what can you do about it

Owner of Enterprise Sales Personnel Ltd, Paul Thomson, offers his advice to challenging a counter offer

Identifying Counter Offers early

Have you ever been in an interview process where your ideal candidate gives you a sense they may listen seriously to a counter offer from their current employer?

Have you ever been in an interview process where your ideal candidate gives you a sense that they may listen seriously to a counter offer from their current employer? You probably have and the later in the recruitment process you discover that they are staying put the more problematic this can be.

Of course I understand candidates who receive a counter offer are likely to be a worthy asset otherwise they would not get a counter. So how does one find out if a large counter will affect their decision to join and what can one do about it?
Here are some of my tips to help combat that counter offer

Salary Expectation

If the only reason they are looking to leave is money, then very often people are susceptible to accepting a counter-offer as this is something that can be very easily addressed by their current employer.

The best plan here is to make absolutely sure this is a great career move for the individual or make a huge offer yourself. Alternatively I would recommend they talk to their current employer now before you waste any more time.

Career Progression

When a candidate has reasons for leaving that are linked to career progression or a bigger challenge then as long as your vacancy provides for that it’s unlikely a strong counter offer will affect their decision.

In circumstances where an employee has been with an organisation a long time with lots of loyalty to them then it could be different so it’s useful to be wary again

What would you say if a counter offer was suggested?

It’s important to directly ask a candidate what they would do in a situation where they have handed their notice and are presented with a planned/effective counter offer strategy.

In my experience you get 3 types of response –

  1. “I’ll definitely listen”
    You are very likely to have a problem. There is a high probability that your candidate is staying put so I recommend they chat to their current employer now or maybe proceed. However, do not be surprised if they don’t turn up on day one
  2. “I definitely won’t listen and I’m definitely leaving a soon as I find a career move matching my requirements” 
    There should be no problem. This is the ideal scenario
  3. “I may listen”
    You definitely have a problem. In my experience this is no different to ‘I’ll definitely listen’ because the candidate is open minded. The more indispensable the employee is to their current employer, and the longer they’ve been there, the bigger the chance they will stay. Again don’t be surprised if they don’t show up on day one.

In general, the younger the candidate the more likely they will be turned by a big counter listen because they’ve not had the work/life experiences

The vast majority of candidates who are genuinely not interested in a counter wish to exit quickly whilst maintaining good relationships. If you coach them by explaining that dragging out counter offer negotiations will prolong the current employer accepting their decision, hence the employer invests more time in attempting to persuade the candidate to stay, and the more disappointed they are when the candidate finally leaves, souring the future relationship. That way the candidate discourages counter offer conversations and nips them in the bud before everyone invests lengthy time in them. After all a candidate who is definitely joining does not want to have to go through their own decision making process again after they have already done so once.

After resignation

Ask if their resignation has been accepted by the business, been passed to HR & made public knowledge
Tell-tale signs – Are they being communicative or evasive? If communicative then its unlikely you have a problem however, if evasive then brace yourself for a nasty surprise
Have there been any delays from the candidate that would suggest a problem or have they been behaving as agreed/expected?  (In other words, responsive).  If they are dragging feet or not calling back there is a problem.

About Paul Thomson

Paul Thomson is the founder and Managing Director of Enterprise Sales Personnel Ltd, a specialist IT sales recruitment company based in Didsbury, Manchester. He has over 20 years of IT sales recruitment experience.

To find out more about Enterprise Sales Personnel Ltd and its team, follow via twitter @ESP001 or on LinkedIn or visit the website